Farmers are increasingly looking for ways to conserve energy in their day-to-day operations.
The reasons are two-fold:
#1: As the cost of operating a farming rises, cutting costs where possible is critical, especially given the unpredictability and instability inherent in the industry.
#2: Farmers are acutely aware of increasing temperatures.
After all, changes in weather patterns, like these severe droughts out West and in the Northern Plains, directly impact their livelihoods.
And profit margins are already thin enough.
Thankfully, there’s help.
It won’t come from Superman freezing a lake and dropping it from the heavens to water the parched land (here’s looking at you, Christopher Reeve).
Solar power holds promise for those looking for solutions . . .
but many farmers wonder whether a solar panel irrigation system can handle the water demands on their farm.
Let’s dive into solar irrigation, how it works, and why it might benefit you.
What Is a Solar Panel Irrigation System?
Water supply on a farm is critical for crop growth and health.
Still, you can’t always count on Mother Nature to provide enough water when your crops need it most.
In arid regions, watering the fields is an even greater concern . . . and now draining pocketbooks.
Irrigation has long been used to supplement rainfall, giving farmers more control over crop growth and providing a degree of stability.
However, pumping water takes a significant amount of energy, which increases the cost of operating the farm.
Over the years, these costs add up.
As some of you already know, when fossil fuel prices increase, so do the costs to run the irrigation pumps.
On the other hand, using the sun’s energy is free – after the equipment is paid for, of course.
A solar panel irrigation system uses panels to power the pumps that send water to your fields.
Over the long term, a solar panel system more than pays for itself.
How Does It Work?
In an irrigation system, the water pumps shoot the water out into the field.
In this case, the pumps are paired with solar panels rather than using a traditional energy source.
When the sun’s rays strike the cells on the panels, that energy is converted into electricity to power the pump’s motor.
Different Solar-Operated Pump Models
As with a traditional irrigation system, it’s important to consider the water source, irrigation method, and crop needs when selecting your pump.
System efficiency hinges on the correct match between these three.
A solar panel irrigation system is compatible with the following models:
- Floating Pump Sets
- If you use a canal or open well as your water source, floating pump sets allow you to maneuver the system to where you need it.
- In these systems, the solar array also must be portable. Generally, this is done with a movable racking system.
- Jack Pumps
- When you require high-head, low-flow irrigation, jack pumps often work best.
- Fortunately, there are solar-powered pumps available for these systems that can handle the required energy balance.
- Submerged, Multi-stage Centrifugal Pumps
- For large-scale farms that require an expansive irrigation system, this type of solar panel system offers the most effective and efficient use of solar power.
- These systems pair alternating current-powered pumps with a solar array and use inverters to convert solar energy to AC electricity.
Each solar pump model has advantages and disadvantages when it comes to upkeep.
However, these systems typically require less maintenance than traditional water pump systems.
To get the most from your solar-powered water pump, you need to ensure your irrigation system is designed to meet your farm’s specifications and crop water demands.
What Are the Benefits of a Solar Panel Irrigation System?
Every year, fossil fuels supply 2.419 terawatts (we’re talking trillions of watts) of energy to meet our power needs.
Compare that to the 173,000 terawatts the sun provides continuously (10,000 times more than what the world uses), and using the sun instead of fossil fuels makes sense.
In addition to providing dependable energy, solar irrigation:
- Has predictable operational costs
- Requires less manual oversight than fossil-fuel powered systems
- Is low maintenance
- Does not produce greenhouse gases or other toxic emissions
In addition, crops require irrigation most when conditions are dry.
The double benefit of a solar system is that these are the exact times when the sun’s energy is most abundant.
While a traditional irrigation system would cost more to operate during dry periods, the sun’s energy is free.
So, it costs nothing to operate the water pumps when you need them most.
Another thing to keep in mind is that these systems are becoming more affordable.
While there are times when fossil fuels drop in price, as we’ve all seen, they inevitably go up.
Even now, market prices for fossils — especially petroleum — are skyrocketing because of supply problems and geopolitical issues.
Cybercriminals have also posed a problem.
The more energy-independent your farm is, the less you’re subject to variables out of your control.
Where Can Farmers Go for Help with Their Solar Panel Irrigation System?
Unbound Solar® is dedicated to helping farmers achieve energy independence.
A solar panel irrigation system can free you from the skyrocketing expenses and market volatilities of traditional irrigation systems.
It also provides you abundant and consistent energy when your crops are thirstiest.
Whether you’re a do-it-yourself sort of person or you’d prefer to have an experienced team install your system, you can count on Unbound Solar’s lifetime support . . . literally, for life.
If you have any questions, get in touch.
We’d love to talk with you!